All posts by Katherine Mirani

This Week in Online Learning: Udacity Counts For Credit, Bloggers Start A New University, And More

Another week in the world of online learning, another multitude of changes, new players and new ventures.  Less than a month ago we were wondering if online courses would ever be able to offer their students legitimate credentials, and now two of the biggest MOOC providers have found a way that might work — and won’t put older educational giants like Pearson out of a job.  Keep reading to find out how!

A First for Udacity: a U.S. University Will Accept Transfer Credit for One of Its Courses by Katherine Mangan of The Chronicle of Higher Education

Colorado State University’s Global Campus says it will accept transfer credit from Udacity’s Intro to Computer Science course.  Students must show a certificate of accomplishment from Udacity and pass a proctored exam issued by Pearson VUE, at a cost of $89 — we probably don’t need to point out that this is MUCH cheaper than any in-person class at a US university.  A possible game changer?  We think so — while learning for learning’s sake is awesome, being able to use that new knowledge to get a job is even better.

MOOCing On Site by Steve Kolowich of Inside Higher Ed

Trends spread quickly in edtech land.  Just a couple of months behind Udacity, edX (MOOC provider of MIT, Harvard and UC Berkeley) has announced a partnership with Pearson to give in-person proctored tests for their classes.  The tests will hopefully weed out cheaters and allow passing students to earn credits for their online classes at bricks-and mortar schools, just like at Udacity and Colorado State.  No word yet on whether Coursera will jump on the Pearson bandwagon…

Marginal Revolution launch an online university by Alex Hern of NewStatesman

Voracious learners will get a new option for economics education October 1, when Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, authors of the hugely popular economics blog Marginal Revolution, start the first class at their brand-new Marginal Revolution University.   The bloggers, who are professors at George Mason University, laid out their plans in a post on their site — short videos, tests and quizzes to measure progress, and no payment required. It’s interesting to see an online learning program focusing on one specific subject when most newcomers to the online learning space are trying to tackle everything.  Marginal Revolution already has a niche and a following, so let’s hope their university works as well as their blog.

That’s the news this week.  Did we miss anything?  Let us know in the comments or tweet @Smarterer.

6 Ways To Motivate Yourself To Finish Your Dream Project

Personal projects can be the most rewarding accomplishments in your life.  They’re the product of what you do completely from your heart, without the incentive of a paycheck or the burden of someone else’s expectations.  When you finish, you feel as if you’ve really done something you can be proud of.

But there’s that small issue of actually finishing.  The very fact that you don’t have obvious incentives can make it really hard to drum up enough motivation to work on the project — especially if you have other jobs that actually pay.  On 99U, Mark McGuinness gives us some insight into his process for finishing labors of love.

  • Make it worth the sacrifice: You’ll have to give up something valuable to work on the project, whether it’s extra money or time with your friends.  Make a list of all the reasons why achieving a project goal will be worth it.
  • Do a time budget: Figure out how much time it will most likely take to finish your project, then budget that time into your current schedule.  Estimate a finish date and decide whether it’s reasonable.
  • Anticipate excuses: Think of all the reasons you could think of not to work on this project.  Write them down and refute them one by one.  Keep adding to the list as new excuses inevitably come up.
  • Make yourself accountable:  Leave notes, send emails and set alarms to remind yourself how important this project is to you.  Find a friend or family member who will agree to hear reports on your progress (even better if they are also working on a project and can exchange reports with you!).  Finally, consider an online forum or greater virtual community (such as your Twitter followers) to update on your project.  They’re sure to yell at you if you slack off!
  • Tick off your progress: Find a way to easily quantify your progress, such as a program for writing that will let you see the word count, number of notes you’ve made, etc.  Being able to check off tasks and see how far you’ve come will make it much easier to continue.
  • Get good at catching up:  You will occasionally get behind — it happens to the very best of us.  Make sure you know which tasks simply cannot be ignored, and that you have a system in place for catching up after a hard day.

These tips can be applied to any personal project. You can use them to write a book, keep track of your job search, knit a sweater or learn a new skill.  Once you’ve got them down, you’ll be able to finish anything you set your mind to — and know when a project may not be worth the effort.

To read more, see the original article: Having Trouble Finishing Your Labor of Love? | 99U

What methods have you used to motivate yourself?

Back to School: 5 Tips to Get the Skills You Need Without Cutting Class

Time to go back to school — the place you go to learn.  You take classes.  You read the great thinkers and you memorize the famous theorems.  You engage in intellectual discussion, write papers and take exams.  You emerge in June as a better scholar than when you began, totally ready for anything a summer internship or job might throw at you.

Okay.  That paragraph was fine up until the last sentence, right?  College classes are fantastic, but often you don’t get the hard skills you need for an entry-level job.  Knowing how to prove the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus simply won’t help you when your employer wants an Excel spreadsheet by the end of the day and you have no idea how to format it correctly.

Read on to see some tips for how to weave skills that will make you super employable nto your day-to-day life as a college student.

1. Make a personal website. Skills gained: Basic HTML and CSS (more if you want), WordPress, Writing

You write a lot in college, and writing is an extremely valuable skill.  But wouldn’t it be cool to have a clean, beautiful website to show all that writing off to potential employers?  Consider using WordPress, HTML and CSS to create a platform to showcase your papers for class, or even just to blog about topics that interest you.  The best thing about this project is that it can be as simple or epic as you want it to be, and (as long as you keep it classy) it can only help you.

2. Promote that website.  Skills gained: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Social Media

Then comes the hard work of getting people to actually find your website.  Link to it on your Facebook, LinkedIn and profiles.  Tweet about it when you post something new.  Start making connections and forming relationships with others who write about the same topics you do.  Social media is now indelibly entangled with our professional relationships, and learning how to leverage it for business purposes has never been more important.

3. Use Excel to plan your life.  Skills gained: Excel, Basic Math

In addition to being a frequently used program in entry level positions and internships, Excel also has myriad uses in everyday life.  At school, you can use it to calculate your grades (How much is that exam going to hurt me?), keep track of your dorm’s movie collection, or even just to plan a simple budget for yourself.  Using the program to organize what’s important to you will make the professional skills much easier to swallow.

4. Design a poster for one of your activities on campus. Skills gained: Design, Adobe programs

You know that freshmen have 8 million clubs and activities they can join on campus, and they’re bound to be overwhelmed by it all.  In the end, they’ll be attending the meetings of whoever has the best posters.  Offer to take on the job for whichever club you’re most passionate about.  Adobe offers free trials for all their programs as well as a wealth of articles and video tutorials explaining how to use the features. And if in the process you discover a latent talent for design and want to buy the programs, you can probably get a killer student discount.

5. Become a master online researcher.  Skills gained: Google search

As our test shows, Google is so much more than just typing a word into the box and clicking “Search.”  If you know how to work it correctly, you can turn up incredibly obscure information and make the most unlikely connections in just a few clicks.  So when the deadline is looming for that 10-page Environmental Politics paper, don’t just blindly search and click — challenge yourself learn operators like AROUND() and ~synonyms and use them to find the best and most original sources for your research.

What are your tips for developing skills at school?

This Week in Online Learning: Which Classes to Take, Learnist’s New Video App, and More

Gee, doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were talking about Codecademy teaching Python?  Seems like old news now.  As usual, the world of online learning is moving at a breakneck pace and it’s all we can do just to keep the names of the startups straight.  But all this change is a good thing — it means we’re making a difference in people’s lives. Here’s this week’s news, ranging from the newest educational video app to an extensive report on the current state of online education.

EdSurge Nabs $400K From Washington Post, NewSchools To Be A Resource For All Things EdTech by Rip Empson at TechCrunch

We’ve long sung the praises of EdSurge here in the Smarterer office — it’s an excellent place to get reliable and extensive edtech news, reviews and analysis.  Plus, its newsletter actually reads like a human wrote it.  While it’s received support in the past from bigwigs like Bill Gates, EdSurge needed more funds to continue and expand its existing coverage.  They got it!  This article from TechCrunch gives a great overview of why EdSurge exists, what it’s doing differently and why you should care.

Grockit steps beyond test prep: Learnist brings social learning to iPhone and iPad by Devindra Hardawar at VentureBeat

From providers of online SAT prep comes an app that may be the Pinterest of online learning.  Learnist has thousands of videos created by experts and professional teachers — but also allows you to create a learning map to plan your approach to a topic, take assessments to make sure you’ve got the material down, and make your own videos to help others.  Now they have an app for iPhone and iPad.  VentureBeat says it’s easy and fun to get lost in the videos, so here’s to hoping Learnist can hold its own against video competitors like Khan Academy and Knowmia.

 Plan Your Free Education at Lifehacker U: Fall Semester 2012 by Alan Henry at Lifehacker

It’s that time of year again — if you’re a student, you’re heading back to school, and if you want to be a student now’s the time to sign up for online classes.  The problem is, there are just SO many options.  How do you narrow them all down?  Lucky for us, Lifehacker has put together an awesome guide to the best courses available this fall, from programming to poetry.  Each entry includes the professor, a description of the class and a handy link so you can sign up immediately if one of the classes really appeals to you.

The future of education in Africa is mobile by Steve Vosloo at BBC Future

How do we extend the opportunities of online education to parts of the world where computers are scarce, illiteracy is scarily high, and great teachers are hard to come by? In sub-Saharan Africa, nonprofits are trying to reach students on their cell phones, through reading programs, social networks and even mobile tutoring.  They’re banking on the premise that even when students can’t get access to a real classroom or a physical book, cell phones can provide a pocket-sized source for constant learning.  Pretty cool to see how nontraditional education is evolving around the world.

Schools Open Doors To New E-Learning Rules, Ideas at Education Week

There’s a ton going on in online learning, and these roundups don’t even begin to cover the magnitude of the changes happening every day.  But there are some fundamental questions that we have to keep returning to — What’s the best way to assess how well all these new products and methods are working?  How do we keep providers accountable? And how are we going to pay for all this? Education Week tries to answer some of those questions in a 16-page supplement that covers topics like the trendy flipped classroom and state legislation on online learning.  It’s a well-reported must-read on the biggest issues facing K-12 online education, and has relevance for all online learners.

That’s the news this week!  Did we miss anything?  Let us know in the comments or tweet @Smarterer.